Headlines: July 28th, 2010

Britain’s Minister for Decentralisation has set out three actions he says are key to building the ‘Big Society’.

Speaking to the Policy Exchange, Greg Clark described the UK as one of the most centralised countries in the democratic world, and said it disempowered public sector professions and pushed voluntary organisations out of providing public services.

Mr Clark said: “We need to turn central government upside down and inside-out. Instead of the civil service only being focused upwards on providing advice to Ministers – and inwards on its own priorities – we must drive the focus downwards and outwards to put those resources at the service of communities nationwide.”

He added that decentralisation would depend on three further actions: a right to know, a right to challenge and what he described as ‘turning government on its head’.

The right to know would mean that people would always be able to know how much is being spent and on what. Transparency would promote efficiency without what Mr Clark said was the “heavy-handed intervention of an unaccountable bureaucracy.”

The right to challenge would mean that people would never again feel powerless to challenge the way public services work.

Mr Clark said: “Communities must stand before the bureaucracy as free agents demanding what is theirs, not as supplicants begging for scraps of freedom. That is why this government views self-determination as a right and not a privilege.”

Turning Government on its head means that it should work for communities rather than ministers.

Mr Clark said “The state should exist to serve civil society, not the other way round.” The department is already establishing a “barrier-busting” team whose sole purpose will be to help community groups get the backing they need when they encounter bureaucratic obstacles to local objectives.”